An Oak Harbor man whose drone knocked out a parade goer has been found guilty of reckless endangerment.
A six-member jury arrived at the unanimous verdict at the end of a four-day trial earlier this month. The 38-year-old man was piloting the drone at a June 2015 Pride Parade in downtown Seattle when he lost control of the 2-pound aircraft.
A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he or she recklessly engages in conduct “that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.”
The 25-year-old victim was watching the parade when the 18-inch-by-18-inch, $1,200 drone crashed into a building and fell onto the woman, striking her in the head and rendering her unconscious. Her boyfriend prevented further injury when he caught her before she fell to the ground.
An off-duty firefighter came to the woman's aid and called police. A friend of the victim gave police photographs of the suspected drone pilot, who turned himself into police days later. The woman suffered a concussion and another parade-goer suffered a minor bruise when the drone fell.
This was the first time the city attorney's office has brought a case against someone for a drone-related injury. The pilot is slated to be sentenced Feb. 24. Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
The verdict comes days after a New Year's Eve drone crash at the Space Needle. Workers were on the roof, 575 above the ground preparing for a fireworks show when the drone struck, nearly hitting them. The drone pilot faces charges of reckless endangerment. In 2014, a drone struck an observation deck window at the Space Needle. Drones have struck the landmark at least three times in the last several years. A few months after the woman was injured at the Pride Parade, a drone struck a ferris wheel in Seattle.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates the operation of civilian drones, more than 616,000 owners have registered their drones with the agency in the last year. As part of the registration process, the FAA encourages drone pilots to acknowledge basic safety information to try to prevent accidents like the one that injured the Seattle woman.
If you have accidentally injured someone and find yourself facing criminal charges, do not allow the situation to ruin your life. No matter the crime, every defendant has a right to representation by a qualified attorney. If you have been arrested and face criminal charges, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.